Back to Issue Forty-One

Crater Heart



Such strangeness these days.

Morning rising over my head
like the quilt sewn of old t-shirts
or saltwater waves
licking our sun-bleached dock.

Then—you absorbing moment, you
harvest queen—the sky is surprised
by evening’s orchard.

I have stuffed the South’s nightlights
in my mouth. Gala of fireflies.

How clumsy I feel in front of God.



The Banquet Scene



My brother needs three thousand dollars
or some bookies will break his legs.
We grew up eating at a fold-out card table
so this is no wonder. At the museum,

I find his likeness in the banquet scene;
stick-bug trying to convince the painting
it is a leaf. Hiding by the dining table,
oak top touching such elbows
through such thin sleeves, pheasant necks
strewn off the side like sails.

Long-bodied guns, wide-bodied men.
Big hunting followed by big feasting.
I am concerned with the deception
of a glance. My mother’s eyes. My father’s way
of overlooking us quiet things.
How the table seems to be bleeding
animals and spades. The elaborate trick

of my brother’s body, feigning stillness
against a dark, velvet wall.
And the effect of light. How morning turns
its face to ribbon out sun
and it didn’t dawn on us
to be ungrateful until we grew older.

We rested in the ripped glimmer,
whistling through split weeds.
Our childhood July
put a freckle on all it reached,
my brother and I—plumb covered.

His laugh owned the cicadas
who croaked just to come close.



Train Through Memory



Again: I left thumbprints in the painting.
I’ve given my body to this house. Or made

a house of my body—You’ve heard that one before.
I could confess: I ate sunflowers, provoked dogs

from outside fences. I could describe how differently
those two kids died. That I didn’t know them at all.

How we immortalize. The brutal ways we save each other.
My fingers in azul like resuscitation breaking

landscape’s ribs. Oh breathe. Don’t let your babies
grow up to be better. This is maybe to say

we’ve grown out of a need for statues and portraits
and stranger-danger and wheat. It is always closer

than we think. I paint and re-paint the rotting.
It was the daddy, the neighbor boys or their daddies.

I can’t remember. They won’t say the awful ways
I was. That I never believed in you. How often

my own mother said she wanted to burn our house down.
And when we moved, how she missed it. It was best

not to remind her she’d nearly lost us many times.
Our house up and died, anyway. My bones strong

as ever despite me. I’m pretty sure I’ve always
been leaving. The train stalled so long

at the station, I thought I’d never get off.


Tennessee Hill holds an MFA from North Carolina State University. She has been featured in Best New Poets, POETRY, Beloit Poetry Journal, and elsewhere. She has work forthcoming from Nimrod, Fugue, and Arkansas International. She won the 2020 Porter House Review Editor’s Poetry Prize and serves as Poetry editor for Gingerbread House Literary Magazine. She lives and teaches in Houston.

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